I came, I saw, and for the first time in a long time, I was conquered. I never have problems with difficult 2D games. Mega Man 9 and Mega Man 10 were both manageable. I can reach the final boss in Ninja Gaiden II on the NES in under an hour. But when it comes to Aces Wild, I find that I really have to grit my teeth, dig my heels in and fight for victory. And believe me, it's a really good thing.

Developer Tyler Doak has crafted an incredibly fulfilling experience with his new 2D brawler. Things start out easily enough, as the normal peon enemies that come your way are basically nothing but cannon fodder. They're there so you can learn the controls and ease into the feel of the game. You'll be zipping around the screen like a mongoose, taking these punks to task before you know it. One of the coolest aspects of the game is that much of the combat takes place in the air. While you can't outright fly, it's easy enough to move from enemy to enemy once airborne. At first things are great, you're running along, smashing faces, and then you reach the boss. And your world will splinter into pieces.

The bar is set high, but don't run from the challenge. Boss battles are supposed to be difficult. Kids didn't talk about the Yellow Devil in Mega Man on the playground with horror in their voice back in the 80s for no reason. You'll need to use literally everything you learned from pushing around the early-game pansies to defeat the bosses here. Things like learning when to dodge, when to attack, when to run faster, and when to lay off for a second are requirements. Pattern recognition is a key element in old-school game design, but it's taken to a whole new level in Aces Wild. I was angry after getting my ass handed to me a dozen times on the first boss. Eventually I realized that I had all the tools I needed to win, I just needed to clean up my sloppy execution. Button jamming and attack spamming does not work. A high level of determination and a dozen more tries brought me to success, and it was oh-so-sweet.

If you're not afraid to get your hands dirty and dig into the combat, Aces Wild is an absolute gem. Just know that this game will push your face into the mud, and it will feel no remorse. It's available for Windows through the Humble Store for $10.